100% Jodi: Leadership Development for Women Needs to Change

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Have you ever left a leadership development training feeling like it barely scratched the surface of what you needed?

Or, that too much time was spent on competencies you’ve never had an issue with?

You might have even had your concerns as a leader brushed aside or dismissed. You may hear comments such as:

  • Delegate that to your team
  • Speak up more in meetings
  • Brag more
  • Communicate clearly but don’t be too direct

All this without any guidance on how to navigate bias, double-standards, or identity issues that emerge when we are asked to change our patterns of thought and behavior.

Most leadership development training was not designed for women. Programs fail to take women’s specific brain functions, societal conditioning or obstacles into consideration.

In this episode we’re covering why leadership development for women is so important and why it needs to change.

Where are Women in Leadership Today?

Women in leadership don’t have to be told that in the boardroom, it’s still a man’s world.

And when you take a step back to look at the facts, it becomes a puzzling phenomenon.

Today, more women are attending college than men. But when it comes to holding top level positions, women still fall far short. About half of entry-level jobs are still held by women and the rates at which women are promoted fall behind those of men.

And of Fortune 500 CEOs, women represent a mere 6.6%.

McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace 2019 study noted an increase of women leaders in the C-Suite from 17% to 21%. But there is still a long way to go.

Why the disconnect?

Research has found some surprising answers. These key takeaways reveal a few basics as to what is hindering women’s progress up the corporate ladder. Along with the advantages of leadership training specific for women we know:

  • Women and men have inherently distinct, specific traits
  • Gaps exist in leadership development, even today
  • Leadership development for women has strong, far-reaching benefits

Male vs. Female Brains: The Same – But Different

Coming as no surprise to anyone, science has proven that there are differences between male and female brains.

Author of Unleash the Power of the Female Brain, researcher Dr. Daniel Amen has shown that women’s brains are more active in just about all areas.

Love science stats? Here are a few for you:

  • Amen’s research further found that women’s brains are especially more active in the prefrontal and limbic cortex.
  • One study discovered that women have 30% more neurons firing at any given time than men do.

All those extra neurons firing away supports strengths like:

  • collaboration
  • self-control
  • intuition
  • empathy

Each of these traits can prove advantageous in leaders. Yet for the most part, women have not been advanced into top level positions.

We know that many women leaders attempt to take on “male” traits as they enter the C-suite. What happens when women take on male traits: does it help or hinder them?

Well, what a Stanford Business School study discovered was that when women combine both male and female qualities, they achieve much more.

Age-old societal and cultural influences still play a role in the lack of women’s progress in the workplace. For instance, a successful male leader is seen as a positive, strong image, while a successful female in leadership is viewed as too ambitious or pushy.

Gaps in Leadership Development for Women

According to Beth Haggerty, co-founder and CEO of Declare, which assists women in their professional development, female leaders need specific, improved training:

“Women need very focused professional development, particularly as leaders, to help them address very specific needs and hurdles that they face in corporate America.” -Beth Haggerty

Simply put, there’s a gap when it comes to leadership training for men and women. Given that there are documented differences between the male and female brain, and that societal influences affect how and what men and women are taught, leadership training for women must recognize these differences and incorporate appropriate guidance.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

These are not new concepts. In 2018 Sally Helgesen co-authored a book with Marshall Goldsmith, the author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

Let me share with you the background of their collaboration.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was published in 2007. This book gives an overview of 20 workplace habits that hurt high achievers’ effectiveness and prevent them from advancement. Marshall Goldsmith had identified these habits as an executive coach working with leaders from all over the globe.

As the book implies, the habits that once helped a high achiever be successful stopped working at some point. However, because the individual had experienced the habit as a winning strategy in the past, they had a hard time letting go and forming new habits.

After the publication of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall and his team went around the globe delivering leadership training designed to help leaders overcome these 20 bad habits.

How Women Rise

However, what they began to realize was the more aggressive and self-centered behaviors were not behaviors that women leaders tended to display. Behaviors such as taking credit for ideas and work that was not theirs, always needing to be right, or refusing to express regret.

Not only were several of the habits not typical stumbling blocks for women, the stumbling blocks women experienced were the opposite of the behavior out lined in What Got You Here.

For example, rather than taking credit that is undeserved, women deflect credit that is their due. Rather than always needing to be right, women are more likely to be diminished by a need to please or be perfect. And beating themselves up if they don’t deliver.

On the suggestion of a mutual colleague Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith teamed up and as a result How Women Rise: Break The 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job was published in 2018.

The fact that this book exists points to the fact that most leadership development does not account for the specific needs and tendencies of women.

Leadership Development for Women at All Levels

That may be part of the reason so many women are stuck in entry-level positions. Adding to that, businesses may not be truthful in their efforts to equalize hiring at the top levels.

“If your workforce is 50/50 but your management team is 90% male, you’re not really a diverse or inclusive organization.” ~ Beth Haggerty

Learning and development (L&D) is vital at every level in a company to create gender parity.

As an example, Haggerty cites training in strategic planning and negotiation: extremely valuable skills in leadership. These skills are taught more to men than women, along with storytelling, and public speaking, among other skills.

In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership training. Recognizing this and tailoring leadership development for women is a key ingredient in assuring women access to high-level positions. This is crucial to all workplaces who want to remain competitive in the future.

Do You Know What Your Individual Training Needs Are? 

Knowing your strengths and gaps as a leader allows you to be more confident and competent in your leadership.

I developed the Leadership Operating System Quiz, for women like you. This holistic self-assessment allows you to assess your effectiveness in five areas. These are: leading others, leading yourself, ability to influence, ability to manage your energy, and communication skills.

It’s a way for you to quickly identify where you could focus your developmental resources. This quiz will also be an acknowledgement of where you are getting a lot of things right.

Those who have used the Leadership Operating System Quiz have described the questions as engaging and thought-provoking. You’ll gain insights into which areas to focus on, and resources that will get you started

It will take you about 3 minutes for you to complete. That’s a quick turnaround to gain insight into what would improve your effectiveness as a leader and make being a leader easier and more enjoyable.

What’s your leadership operating system? Click womentakingthelead.com/quiz to take a fun, easy leadership inventory.

Benefits of Leadership Development for Women

“A case study on women leaders who participated in coaching shows that leadership coaching can improve: self-awareness, self-confidence, self-leadership, leadership style, as well as their relationship to power, conflict, and personal life.” (International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring)

McKinsey’s women’s leadership program, the Remarkable Women Program, has brought forth a wealth of important data about female leaders.

It’s the system that needs fixing – not the women in it.

From women leaders all over the world, McKinsey brought to the forefront an unseen attribute of women as leaders.

“When women scrutinize their own leadership traits and experiences, they reveal important information about the day-to-day environment in which they operate. … In short, companies can use such programs not only to improve the skills of the participants but also to assess—and ultimately improve—the workplace itself.”

Women in leadership are aware of the biases that exist. Too often, they keep silent so that they are not negatively labeled or judged by their peers. But when organizations objectively listen to their concerns and validate what they’re feeling, positive outcomes can emerge. Not to mention opportunities for growth.

With specific training, women can begin to close the gap, moving from entry level positions to the top levels of organizations. Research over a decade by McKinsey and Leanin.org highlighted:

  • Companies in the top 25% for gender diversity outperformed their national industry average of profitability by 27%.

They summarized their finding: “the link between diversity at the leadership level and financial performance is not coincidental.”

Leadership Development for Women Benefits All

As you can see, the advantages of leadership development for women don’t stop at the individual level. The entire organization can benefit. What’s more, women who are empowered can also serve as inspiration to emerging women leaders as they begin their leadership journey – a win-win!

“One-size-fits-all leadership development can’t address the unique requirements of each female leader.” – Silvia Masini

Are You Looking for Personalized Leadership Development? Let’s Chat!

Find out more about my process, the cost of coaching, or how to ask your employer to pay for you to work with a coach. Schedule a time to chat with me.

This checklist will help you prepare to ask your company to sponsor you to work with a coach. https://womentakingthelead.com/checklist

Apply to be on an “On-Air Coaching” episode. Are you a female leader who has been promoted in the last year? You are invited to apply to be on the podcast.

As always, I hope this was of value to you, and here’s to your success!


Leadership Operating System Quiz. Wondering what kind of Leadership traits you have? Take this FREE, FAST quiz and find out more about yourself as a Leader.

Accomplished: How to Go from Dreaming to DoingThe book containing a simple, step by step system that gives you the foundation and structure to take your goals and make them happen.

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